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February 5th, 2014

The “Let Me Decide” Campaign is Growing Into a Movement in Florida!

By Lynna Kaucheck

Just 18 months ago we hit the ground in Florida and kicked off the “Let Me Decide” campaign to label genetically engineered (GE) food in Florida, and I am absolutely blown away by the amount of progress we’ve made in such a short time. And I couldn’t be happier to report that the Florida legislature is finally beginning to discuss the issue, our GE labeling bill is being scheduled for discussion at an upcoming Senate Agriculture Committee meeting!

This issue is an important one to me because food is such an intimate part of our lives. Preparing and sharing a meal with friends and family is one of the most basic and most treasured actions of my daily life. The thought of not having a choice over what I’m feeding my friends and family seems unjust. But if our food isn’t properly labeled, we can’t truly make informed decisions about what we’re feeding the people we love and that’s just wrong. We all deserve the right to know where are food comes from and how it is produced—I believe that is something worth fighting for.

Throughout the course of our campaign, we’ve developed a strong coalition of over 230 organizations and businesses across the state that agree that we should have the right to know if our food is genetically engineered. Some of these partners, including GMO Free Florida (, have been instrumental in helping us achieve our goals and in building the movement for GE labeling in Florida. Read the full article…

January 31st, 2014

Toxic Waters in West Virginia

By Mary Grant man holding glass of water

The water crisis in West Virginia is a wake-up call for our elected officials. Loud and clear, it screams that we must act to protect our precious common water resources from the rampant pollution of the fossil fuel industry and the abuses of water privatization. 

The specifics of the spill keep changing as more information comes out almost every day, but here are the facts as we know them right now: On January 9, about 10,000 gallons of crude MCHM and PPH — chemicals used to treat coal — spilled into the Elk River about a mile and a half upstream of the regional water treatment owned and operated by West Virginia American Water. More than 300,000 West Virginians in nine counties were banned from using their tap water for anything but toilet flushing for between five and nine days. Hospitals treated hundreds of people for symptoms related to chemical exposure. Many residents continue to question the safety of their tap water and refuse to drink it.

Read the full article…

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January 30th, 2014

Time to Step Up and Actively Oppose Fast Track/TPP

At the end of 2013, we quickly realized that a few legislators had plans to introduce fast track authority for trade deals first thing in 2014, which they did on January 9. This meant we had to quickly adjust our New Year’s resolutions and make “Opposing Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)” our first order of business. So, while many of you have been at the gym or taking a new class, we’ve been busy planning some events for our TPP Day of Action tomorrow.

Food & Water Watch activists around the nation are participating in events that will highlight how Fast Track and the TPP could undermine consumer rights and natural resources while targeting local members of Congress and asking them to oppose Fast Track and the TPP.

These actions are in coordination with over 50 rallies across North America, organized by the Trade Justice Network and coalition partners. Check out the list of events where we’ll be tomorrow, and find more hereRead the full article…

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Greenwashing Pay-to-Pollute, and Harming Indigenous Communities to Boot

Say NO to REDD+ offsets in California’s carbon market

By Elizabeth Nussbaumer

In a recent blog post from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) they proudly announce their role in helping to develop offset credits from REDD+ programs in the Amazon — the reduction of emissions from deforestation and degradation — for use in California’s cap-and-trade market. REDD+ programs exist in Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and elsewhere, and in theory they supposedly protect tropical forests.

EDF specifies that incorporating offsets from REDD+ leads to rewards for indigenous peoples and even ecosystem protection under this supposedly great initiative. However, we see evidence of very different outcomes from REDD+ offset programs; so don’t start guzzling the cool-aid just yet.

The reality of this program is all but rewarding or great. To begin with, offsets of any kind are part of a pay-to-pollute loophole that allows companies to continue polluting at the source under the empty promise that emissions reductions will happen elsewhere; whether those reductions actually happen is highly questionable. Read the full article…

Two Years Later, the House Passes the 2012 Farm Bill

Patty Lovera

Food & Water Watch Assistant Director Patty Lovera

By Patty Lovera

I was starting to wonder if this day would ever come. Yesterday, the House passed their final Farm Bill. In case you missed it, the saga for this Farm Bill has been fairly epic – not because of what got accomplished, but for how dysfunctional the process became.  

So here’s how it all worked out: the nicest thing you can say about this final Farm Bill is it’s a mixed bag.

The final bill cuts the nutrition safety net for low-income families by almost $9 billion over 10 years (compared to the House version of the bill which would have cut $40 billion). Read the full article…

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January 29th, 2014

President Obama’s Legacy to Corporations?

By Wenonah Hauter

Did you see President Obama’s State of the Union last night? While the President had an optimistic tone, again and again, I saw the same theme of giving more power to corporations at the expense of the people.

Last night, President Obama told us once again that he wants to fix income inequality in this country. He even announced a minimum wage increase for government contractors, which is one step in the right direction… but if he’s serious about better pay for ordinary Americans, he shouldn’t be pushing for trade deals that will bolster corporate profits and let corporations move jobs overseas, not to mention taking away communities’ rights to protect themselves from corporate abuses.

If he succeeds, these deals (including the Trans-Pacific Partnership) would lead to more imports of potentially unsafe foods and the export of fracked gas. It would put corporate profits ahead of people’s health and safety. Let President Obama know you’re disappointed that he’s supporting trade deals that put corporations above communities.

When it comes to fracking, President Obama’s State of the Union speech touted his “all of the above” energy plan as a success, even though his administration has repeatedly scuttled investigations into the damaging impacts of fracking, like water contamination. He also said he doesn’t want to leave our children with the impacts of climate change, but fracking hurts communities and it’s not a solution to our energy woes or the climate crisis.

 Even though President Obama said he wants to protect our pristine public lands, his administration is still considering opening them up to more oil and gas fracking. Send President Obama a clear message: it’s past time that he changed his mind on fracking.

President Obama mentioned the debate over the proper size of our government. We can’t let that debate compromise the safety of our food by cutting funding that the USDA needs to properly inspect our poultry. In the State of the Union, he spoke about his interest in streamlining the government, but he’s doing so at the expense of our health and safety when he lets the meat industry do their own safety inspections. That’s letting the fox guard the henhouse, and it’s no way to keep our food safe.

Please take a minute to let the President know that you want him to put the health and safety of American communities ahead of corporate profits. Let’s send a strong message to President Obama after his State of the Union speech.

January 28th, 2014

The Risky Business of Being a Monsanto Shareholder

Monsanto Super FundBy Anna Meyer

When readers of the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch opened their papers yesterday morning, they saw a full-page ad welcoming Monsanto shareholders into town and asking them to vote for full disclosure of the true costs of genetically modified foods (GMOs). The ad depicts the quintessential American farm (red barn and all), and is very similar to many of the ads that Monsanto released implying that the chemical giant has a rosy relationship with farmers. But the veneer of Monsanto’s advertising has worn thin and shareholders are questioning that very relationship and looking for honest answers as to the impacts that GMOs are having on farmers.

Monsanto is generally seen as the most nefarious and targeted corporation in the food movement. The past few years have seen multiple states fight for the right to know what is in their food, international bans on GMOs and increasingly visible negative environmental impacts. Now, even Monsanto’s own shareholders are demanding answers about their controversial products and practices. Read the full article…

January 27th, 2014

Fair Is Fair: Why President Obama Needs to Meet With Victims of Fracking-Related Water Contamination

By Katherine Cirullo and Jill Pape

Ray Kemble of Dimock, Pennsylvania

Ray Kemble stands outside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with a jug of contaminated tap water from his home in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

Last fall, a group of six individuals from Texas, Pennsylvania and Wyoming came to Washington, D.C. to fight for their communities and their water. Americans Against Fracking and Stop the Frack Attack joined them in a march to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). With 250,000 public comments in hand, together they demanded the EPA re-open three investigations into the connection between fracking and contaminated drinking water that they had abandoned.

Today, years after the initial water contamination, and months after the petition delivery last fall, we continue to stand by these victims of fracking and are doing so by holding the Obama Administration accountable for its inaction.  

Years ago, these individuals discovered that their tap water was contaminated as a result of nearby drilling. Read the full article…

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January 24th, 2014

Email Shows USDA Cowering to Industry on Poultry Safety — Again

By Wenonah Hauter

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch

Late last week, Food & Water Watch received information that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) was going to permit a trade association — the National Chicken Council —  to collect data in poultry plants to assess the rate of foodborne pathogens in chicken parts. The information came in the form of an e-mail from the Assistant FSIS Administrator for Field Operations Daniel Engeljohn, informing his district managers that he was aware of the effort and gave his full blessing to the project. What was troubling about the e-mail was that it told the district managers that the purpose of the data collection was for the industry to develop its own voluntary pathogen performance standards that it was going to enforce on poultry processing plants. It went on to say that FSIS inspection personnel assigned to the plants were not to interfere with the National Chicken Council data collection and that they had no right to look at the data that was collected.

In other words, the poultry industry would create the standards for pathogen levels in chicken parts, and they would only “voluntarily” stick with them. Not only would the industry be able to decide how much salmonella or campylobacter there is on your chicken, but there would be no USDA enforcement of the standard.

Welcome to the latest in privatization of chicken inspections that the industry is pushing, with the USDA’s blessing. Another example is the “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection,” the proposed plan whose “modern” twist is to turn most poultry inspection over to the very companies that produce our poultry, leaving only one government inspector per plant to inspect over 175 birds per minute — or three birds per second.

This hasn’t happened overnight. The industry has been chipping away at the USDA’s mandate to protect our food system for over a decade. Since the late 1990s, FSIS has established pathogen performance standards on the meat and poultry industry. The standards were supposed to be enforceable, but the agency lost a critical court case in 2000 when the industry successfully challenged their legality because the current meat and poultry inspection laws are silent on pathogen standards. There were a couple of attempts by Congress in the early 2000s to give FSIS authority to set enforceable pathogen performance standards, but they failed. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently introduced a bill, S. 1502, The Safe Meat and Poultry Act, that would give FSIS that authority, but that bill has still not received a hearing.

In the meantime, FSIS has continued to set pathogen performance standards, but they are voluntary for the industry. For salmonella, FSIS will post on its website monthly those poultry plants that fail the agency’s testing program. The agency has claimed that its sampling program has shown that the levels of salmonella in whole raw chicken carcasses have been declining in recent years. However, the Centers for Disease Control continues to report that the number of food borne illnesses attributed to salmonella remains stubbornly high.

In 2010, Consumer Reports conducted its own study of food borne pathogens found in chicken parts.  Consumers rarely buy whole chicken carcasses, but they buy chicken parts in packages at the grocery store. It found that 62% of the chicken parts they bought and analyzed tested positive for campylobacter and 14% tested positive for salmonella.  

In response to the Consumer Reports findings, FSIS – to its credit – began a study to assess the levels of pathogens in chicken parts. In 2012, it posted the results of its survey on its website, which found that 26.3% of the chicken parts were contaminated with salmonella and 21.4% were contaminated with campylobacter. Agency officials have indicated that it was their intent to set government pathogen performance standards for chicken parts. In fact, the Salmonella Action Plan released by the agency in December 2013 listed that as one of the activities for FY 2014 Now, we find out that the industry is going to set its own standards that it will enforce.

In December 2013, Consumer Reports released data on a new study on pathogen contamination in chicken parts that found 43% of the chicken breasts sampled were contaminated with campylobacter and 10.8% with salmonella.

In light of the rule proposed by FSIS in January 2012 that would turn over most inspection responsibilities over to the poultry companies to perform themselves, the Engeljohn e-mail seems to indicate that there is a dangerous deregulatory effort underfoot that would take FSIS out of the food safety business altogether. Instead of trying to enhance its ability to regulate food safety standards, this agency seems to be turning the keys over to the industry to police itself. That is not in the interest of public health and it needs to be stopped.

January 23rd, 2014

Let’s Get Smart About Water Pollution Trading… By Making It Illegal

Pollution TradingBy Rich Bindell

Forty years ago the United States Congress, over the veto of President Richard Nixon, enacted one of the most important laws in the history of the country – the Clean Water Act. In a briefing room on Capital Hill last week, the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Energy and Environment Task Force hosted a staff briefing focused on how this new market-based approach to pollution control is undermining the Act and endangering our communities. For those of us involved in the planning of the briefing, it was a welcome sight to see several dozen Congressional staffers occupying seats in that room. That means that Congress is listening, and that tells us that it’s time to step up our efforts to broadcast a very critical message: pollution trading schemes are bad for our waterways and bad for the country.  

The briefing featured four panelists who offered compelling reasons why water pollution trading is the wrong approach to pollution control. Panelists included former Maryland Senator Joseph D. Tydings, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, Robert Lawrence, MD, Patuxent Riverkeeper Fred Tutman and Food & Water Justice Co-Director Michele Merkel. Each speaker highlighted concerns surrounding the implementation of Water Pollution Trading (WPT), a scheme that erodes the Act’s successful permitting program while allowing some of the biggest polluters, industrial agriculture operations, to sell the “right” to pollute to other polluting industries instead of actually reducing pollution at its source.

As Food & Water Watch’s Michele Merkel put it, the briefing was to explain to staffers…

“… how WPT is illegal; how it destroys the public trust by putting our waterways into the hands of the financial sector; how it is bad for our waterways by increasing pollution that should be eliminated; and how it leads to unjust outcomes by aggregating credits from a diffuse set of pollution sources and by concentrating that pollution in lower income communities, causing adverse public health impacts.  Read the full article…

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